With the way NFL offenses sling the ball around every week, defenses must have guys who can get to the opposing passer. The value placed on edge rushers is clear based on recent drafts. Three edge rushers have gone in the top 10 in each of the past two drafts, and 32 defensive ends and outside linebackers have gone in the first round in the past five drafts.
The demand for edge rushers is such that teams are often willing to overlook subpar college production and gamble on potential in drafts.
Four edge rushers could go in the top dozen or so picks this year -- Clemson's Vic Beasley, Florida's Dante Fowler Jr., Nebraska's Randy Gregory and Missouri's Shane Ray. And it's not a stretch to think six could go in the first round; there have been six first-round edge rushers in each of the past two drafts, and eight went in the first round in 2011.
Here's a look at the top 11 edge rushers in this draft -- they're listed alphabetically -- and if recent drafts are any indication, expect them to be taken within the first two rounds: In the past five drafts, the first 10 edge rushers have been off the board, on average, by the 53rd overall pick.
We'll also take a look at the first 10 edge rushers taken in the each of the past five drafts. Remember that we are considering all defensive ends as "edge rushers;" obviously, there are some defensive ends who fit best in a 3-4 and aren't necessarily known for their pass-rush skills.